Technology Series Part 1: Is There Anyone Talking about Technology in the Middle East?

Investigating the evolution of ‘technology ecosystem’ in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

By: Ramy Ghaly
Edited by: Mehrunisa Qayyum

The ongoing debate on the extent to which social media catalyzed the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, another ‘technology’ subsector is taking off in MENA that is worth noting to help understand the current sector’s “ecosystem.” Moreover, this 3 part series will examine how technology is moving forward within the current political transformation in pursuing more democratic representation within MENA region.

The Middle East is home to more than 60 percent of its population is under 30 years old. Specifically, the 30 years and under happens to represent the group facilitating change in the political and economic sectors. We have seen examples of them playing a vital and influential part in the decision making process to increase democratic freedom and transform economies to accommodate their needs–thereby making MENA a competitive place in the digital economy market. Needless to say, the MENA region continues to be featured prominently in the ranking, with some notable observations. According to the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 produced by the World Economic Forum, there are four MENA countries scored in the top 30 countries out of 138, namely:
• Israel-22nd
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)-24th
• Qatar-25th
• Bahrain-30th

MENA Country Ranking Across Technology Factors

Also, for example, Lebanon entered at 95th place on the list for the first time since the report began analysis ten years ago. There is no doubt that the region is finding its way into the technology ecosystem. measuring and examining key components that is worth highlighting in the tables referenced in the report.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
For many young adults, the internet operates as a way of life that no one is willing to return to a twentieth century MENA. In particular, a McKinsey poll ranks communications technology in fourth place, which transformed the world. making as it ranks fourth most important sector according to a poll by Mckinsey. (The McKinsey poll surveyed 4,787 consumers around the world: INSEAD, Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010.)

McKinsey Survey

The region continues to prioritize development in ICT by economic diversification, enhance efficiency, and modernization pushing forward to advance ICT’s R&D in the region like Qatar’s 30 years plan focusing on transforming its economy into more knowledge based. Qatar exemplifies the sector impact:

“Qatar is devoted to develop its economy towards a knowledge-based economy enriching its level of human capital and improving its competitiveness. Knowledge, as it is applied in innovation and entrepreneurship, research and development, product design and Software, and in how people use their education and skills, is now considered to be one of the key sources of sustained growth in the global economy. In this context, the Planning Council of Qatar and the Qatar Foundation have in this context asked the World Bank to help them in carrying out a knowledge economy assessment of Qatar as well as in formulating a knowledge-based economy vision as part of Qatar’s National Vision 2025.”

Readiness Index

Moreover, 7 out of 15 MENA economies evaluated are considered in the high income levels have a cumulative average score below the world average in the same income category as per the table below; however, it is moving forward higher compared to the average of 138 economies evaluated. (Source: The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 produced by the World Economic Forum)

Looking at the region from a different perspective, one can determine the impact of ICT is widespread and will affect all key stakeholders: individuals, business, and government.) Evolving technology trends are pointing to the most likely directions they will take over the next few years as per these pillars: social, local, intelligence, and mobile (SLIM).

Social Impact:
ICT is becoming more interlinked to people’s behaviors and social networks. One can notice the future of ICT is expanding from traditional processes and automation themes to include a human and social focus. The popularity of social networks in MENA has grown tremendously in 1st quarter of 2011 driven mainly by the Arab uprising according to a study made by the Dubai school of Government; needless to say, MENA achieved the highest number new users’ in terms of percentage of country’s population compared to other markets as seen below.

Interestingly enough, this phenomenon has its impact on how the region utilizes social networks engaging with their audience and highlights an ongoing trend for business to leverage social networks and transforms information consumers into product consumers. For example, one startup, a pizza parlor in Lebanon has turned to inbound marketing techniques to launch their business opposed to traditional media. Through local bloggers, they made the place a popular one driving new customers to try out their pizza and talk about it freely in social networks creating a buzz and trend to see growing in popularity with small and medium size businesses in MENA Region. Here is a snapshot of what people are saying.
(Image Source: Moritz Stafner – a real time visualization of current tweets on twitter.)

Twitter Graphic

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2, the author’s conclusion, but the setup for the follow-up piece that will reflect on these trends regarding the impact on other developmental issues in MENA. PITAPOLICY invites readers to comment, or submit a piece for this Technology series.
Ramy Ghaly is a Marketing Strategist with more than ten years in international markets experience. He held professional and managerial positions in various global markets in industries ranging from retail, wholesale, consumer goods, to technology product management with concentration in channel development. He holds a degree in International Marketing Management with a minor in International Relations and Middle Eastern studies from Daytona State College. He is interested in social media developments, next generation search technologies, semantic search engines, and text analytics. Needless to say, strategies in geopolitics, Middle Eastern Studies, and Environmental factors that affect global business growth are general interests that keen to always monitor and encourage writing about. He can be reached at Follow Ramy on Twitter @ConsultRamy

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One Response to Technology Series Part 1: Is There Anyone Talking about Technology in the Middle East?

  1. Pingback: Part 2: Is There Anyone Talking About Technology in the Middle East? | PITAPOLICY

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